Tuesday, August 12, 2014

AJ Ellis' Importance is what he does Behind the Plate

I thought JP Hoornstra shared an interesting observation in a brief post at Inside the Dodgers about Correia's performance on Monday, here:
One more postgame note that didn’t quite fit anywhere in the story: One Dodgers player suggested to me that the Twins’ catchers (Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto and Eric Fryer) might have lacked the experience needed to get the most out of Correia during his time in Minnesota. Suzuki is a 30-year-old veteran; Pinto and Fryer are 25 and 28, respectively. Their catchers’ ERA figures correlate inversely to their ages: 4.26, 4.72 and 4.50, respectively. Maybe there’s something to that. Correia certainly was impressed with Ellis’ pitch-calling.  
JP previously wrote the following in his Daily News story:
Correia said that he shook off catcher A.J. Ellis twice out of 82 pitches, “and he was pretty much right on the ones that I shook.”
I've noted before that there's more to being a catcher than his batting average.  In fact, I believe that what a catcher does at the plate is far (FAR) less important than what he does behind it. 

Given that AJ Ellis has consistently been a league leader in Catcher ERA since becoming an everyday starter tells me more than his paltry below the "Mendoza Line" batting average.

Take a look at these numbers:
2014 Catchers ERA     3.24 (5th in MLB assuming he caught enough games)
2013 Catchers ERA     3.06 (1st in MLB)
2012 Catchers ERA     3.33 (2nd in MLB)  

It's about his pitch calling, his preparation, his general understanding of the other batters and his feel for his own pitching staff.  It's the kind of things that remains difficult to quantify, so as a consequence many sabermetrically inclined fans often discount these skillsets.  Obviously, I believe doing so is a mistake.

AJ Ellis is a fine catcher, and I think that the statistical and anecdotal evidence that exist suggest that he just might be one of the finest in the league.

Pic at the very top via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodger 2014.

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  1. I also believe a catcher's offense should be one of the last things to be worried about. What get's me are these Catcher's ERA numbers. Those are great numbers, but how much credit can we really give A.J if the Dodgers have one of the best pitching rotations in the majors. I am sure A.J makes our pitchers better, but I have always found it to be an intriguing stat considering a catcher's ERA is tied directly to the quality of the guy on the mound.

    I'm hoping for a Russell Martin reunion next year, but I don't want to get my hopes too high.

    1. That's the problem... there really are no good stats for that part of the Catchers game... it's something that has yet to be quantified in any meaningful way... frankly, it seems like the kind of thing that is more anecdotal than anything

      I too wouldn't mind Martin... I miss that guy... i just don't know if the Dodgers are willing to pay a huge salary for a catcher who hasn't been part of the system for awhile...

    2. ya know what really gets me though, is all of the whining about Carlos Santana... the guy is not even a catcher anymore because he's horrible at it

    3. Exactly!

      It was a horrible move by Ned for sure, but I'm sure his hands were tied with the whole McCourt money situation. He would have been a solid contributor at either corner though,.


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